Decision panels are defined in the Sugar Labs rules of governance as temporary bodies set up to study a specific controversial or politically sensitive issue, and produce a report about their conclusions as a recommendation to the Oversight Board. They are formed by a decision of the Oversight Board, generally after a call for volunteers, and given specific topics and questions to address.
From the Rules of Governance draft as of September 2009:
On the rare occasion of a contentious issue on which no general consensus can be reached, the Oversight Board is responsible for convening a Decision Panel. The Oversight Board will be responsible for determining when a Decision Panel is required and for selecting members for the Decision Panel. Members of the Oversight Board are not permitted to serve on a Decision Panel. A Decision Panel will solicit community input, discuss (in private if they deem it necessary), reach a conclusion internally, and produce a report documenting their conclusion. (Anyone may submit advice to a Decision Panel.) The Oversight Board will review and ratify Decision Panel reports.
Ben on the origins of the idea
Ben wrote about this during its initial discussion:
As the instigator of this Decision Panel business, I should attempt to clarify the idea. My goal is to make serving on the Oversight Board as unappealing as possible. Ideally, it should be _difficult_ to find seven people willing to serve on the Oversight Board. As such, the document specifies that members of the Oversight Board _cannot_ decide controversial issues. It also specifies that members of the Oversight Board _must_ act as secretaries, taking minutes for every meeting of every committee. Oversight Board members are also prohibited from voting in any of the committee meetings, even though they must attend to take minutes (that's been part of the draft from the beginning). I hope this will be a very frustrating experience for members of the Oversight Board.
... Most technical decisions should be made on the mailing lists anyway; only issues that must be decided in order for work to continue, and on which the community is otherwise deadlocked, should be escalated to a Decision Panel. I expect the Oversight Board to be concerned almost exclusively with the mundane details of managing finances and partnerships, making sure the communications channels are open, etc. I do not want the Oversight Board to be a Court of Last Resort.
... I see it as an easy lightweight system for moving political issues away from the Oversight Board. I welcome other perspectives.
List of decision panels
A Decision Panel (DP) is expected to solicit community input, discuss (in private if necessary), reach a conclusion internally, and produce a report documenting it. Anyone may submit advice to the panel. Decision Panels should be given a time deadline by SLOB.
- DP carries out a discussion directly on a public mailing list (i.e., iaep or sugar-devel or both, depending upon the topic), with a subject tag such as '[SOAS DP]'.
- 1–2 DP members volunteer to moderate the public discussion, asking people to chime in (or take side-discussions to separate threads) as needed.
- DP gathers people's ideas, needs, and suggestions, and a DP member records progress towards conclusions on the SL wiki.
- 1–2 DP members volunteer to edit these conclusions into a thorough report, also on that wiki.
- DP approves the final report (hopefully by consensus; by majority vote otherwise) and submits it to the SLOB.